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Fellow Travel Bloggers, Do You Write in Real-Time or Post-Trip?

2011 February 14
Jungle River Lodge, Honduras

Writing at Jungle River Lodge, Honduras.

Here’s a question I’ve been wondering about for a while:

Do you write on the road or wait till you get home?

To get a better sense of this question, I think it’s important that we first categorize the different types of travel blogs out there.

One metric to look at is the length of the trip:

  • Round-the-world: As the name implies, these are blogs written by people who are on their RTW trips. Since they are often gone for months, if not years, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll be writing on the road. However, the question still holds because what do they do as they near the end of their trip? Do they decide to save certain stories to write later?
  • Yearly vacationers: (I fall into this category.) These types of blogs are run by people who have full-time jobs/other obligations but get a few weeks off each year. Most of these trips are probably, at most, 3 weeks in length.
  • In betweeners: These are the blogs written by those who are in the rare gaps in life where one can take a 2-3 month vacation. Not quite as long as a RTW trip but still several times longer than the 2-3 weeks most people get off each year.

I’ll also look at the “seriousness” of the blog:

  • “Professional”: Full blown travel blogs, with monetization turned on and raking in hundreds, if not, thousands of dollars a month with a reader-base into the thousands. This is the real deal; pretty much a full time job.
  • “Prosumer”: Climbing through the ranks. These blogs have gained a strong social media following and may be beginning to monetize. They take a lot of time, but not quite enough that you need to quit your job.
  • “Hobbyist”: (I fall into this category.) No monetization, a few followers here and there. Mostly writing for the sake of writing. There’s definitely some time investment but nothing to lose sleep over.

Needless to say, the whereabouts of the author and stage of the blog will be a major determinant of whether posts are being published on the road or at home. You can’t go a year without writing anything and expect your blog to survive. Neither can a high traffic blog thrive without new content almost daily.

As you go down the food chain, the more viable it is to not write for long periods of time. Despite these factors, there’s still a case for writing on the road vs. writing at home, regardless of the length of trip or size of the blog.

Writing on the road

To be honest, this is something that I’ve never done. But I can  see why it makes sense. The experience is fresh, you remember the sights, sounds and smells vividly. You can tell stories in deep detail and put down your feelings in that exact moment on paper. As time drags on, we forget the little things that can make a good story great.

The downside is that these posts often look like a laundry list of the days’ activities: “And then we did this, and then that, and after we saw that we went here, and… Blah blah blah”. Maybe it’s more a reflection of the writer’s skill but I’ve seen more than enough posts that read like this.

Probably the biggest downside is instead of actually traveling, you’re sitting in front of a laptop writing about traveling. A good article takes a while to write. That time you could’ve spent swimming at the beach, fire dancing or doing some other awesome thing was spent uploading photos and tweaking your website. Not to mention, you have to CARRY that laptop. Not my cup of tea but if I ever go on a long trip, I see no way around it.

Writing after the fact from home

This is what I’ve been doing. I took my longer trips before I started this blog so I never had to deal with that issue. On the shorter trips, I went two weeks without posting so it definitely wasn’t a blog-killer.

Other than the obvious advantages of not having to lug around a laptop and having more time to actually travel, writing days, weeks, even months after the trip allows you to develop a very different perspective. You have time to look back, reflect and really focus on the parts you want to write about. Some of my best written posts have come months after the experience.

Another advantage is that you’re not rushed. Sitting at home also gives you more time to edit and craft a story, rather than hurriedly writing and posting because your new found travel mates are getting blasted at the bar. I’ve found that a good post takes a good amount of brainstorming, editing and a couple nights to sleep on it.

– – –

Of course things are not as black and white as I’ve made them out to be. I’ve never had the patience to sit down and write a ton on the road so I’ll write a couple short sentences about what I did each day. When I go back and read them, it’s a hint that unlocks that part of my memory bank which I can then use to write a full post. It’s a happy compromise and it’s worked for me.

What about you? What do you do when it comes to writing on the road vs. at home?

6 Responses leave one →
  1. February 14, 2011

    I am in the same position you are. I did all my long term traveling before I started my blog and I am writing my experiences long after they took place. I do my blog as a hobby, to keep me writing.

    Even when I travel now, I always write when I get home as traveling loaded down with a laptop and other electronics isn’t my cup of tea and part of the point of my blog is to unplug more.
    Rebecca recently posted..New Zealand – Bus v Trains in Auckland

  2. Paul permalink*
    February 14, 2011

    Bingo, that’s exactly how I feel.

    When I’m on the road, I want to be unplugged as much as possible. So carrying that laptop is killer.

  3. February 19, 2011

    I do a bit of a mix – some stuff on the road, and then other stuff when I come home. On the road, I usually do it at night or when I’m on some form of transportation – so I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything.
    Rebecca recently posted..Photo of the Week- Ziplining in Costa Rica

  4. February 22, 2011

    Nice post! I tend to be a writing-on-the-road kinda girl but I know it has it’s disadvantages.

    That being said, On my last long trip (about 4 mo) I found that towards the last few weeks I had almost given up on my blog completely because I wanted to just enjoy the experiences of the moment and not waste time writing about it. I did end up writing about those last weeks when I finally made it home but it wasn’t nearly as fresh and it didn’t feel as intimate or personal as most of the posts I had written on the road. When you come home, particularly from another country, you are often jolted back into your old life, obligations, and ways of thinking…and this can really alter the things you write.

    Thanks for this post. Nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this when to write dilemma.

    • Paul permalink*
      February 23, 2011

      Yea, it’s such a balance.

      I dunno, although it isn’t as “fresh”, I think I really like the new perspective which really allows you to appreciate the place. Long trips tend to dull out the amazing day-to-day experiences and I feel the passage of time makes you realize that what you did was really quite amazing.

  5. April 5, 2011

    I’m one of your ‘hobbyists’ and spent a year as a round-the-world blogger, and am now a ‘vacationist’. When I did my year-long trip I blogged on the road – because one of the main reasons I was writing was to keep friends and family up to date with what I was up to while I was away. It was also a nice way to reflect on what I was doing as I went round the world, and was a nice thing to do when having a ‘day off’ from travelling – which was always something I needed on a regular basis – travelling and sightseeing and doing activities every day is fantastically fun but can also be mentally and physically tiring, so spending an afternoon or a day chilling out in a cafe or a hostel catching up on the blog was always nice.

    Now I’m a vacationist, I do all my blogging when I get back, it’s something I look forward to to help remind me of my travels in between holidays and as I look forward to the next one!
    Geoff recently posted..My Olympic Obsession

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